The Olympics are being held in London this summer. It is a great thing for the nation and in a time of economic difficultly, the investment of billions of pounds in developing East London and improving the infrastructure is good – good for business; it creates jobs and buildings, tubes and stadia for us to use for many years to come – as are the billions the millions of visitors will spend while they’re here. But, talking about sporting achievements in Great Britain is always a difficult subject. We invented some of the best sports but seem to perpetually underachieve. This apparent underachievement may of course be due in part to the scale and grandeur of the expectations we hold over our sportsmen and women’s heads. Either way, we seem to have a sporting history of not quite doing it, of being next best, pipped at the post..Except perhaps for the years, 1966 and 2003, which were indeed magnificent and glorious and majestic and, ah, well, perfect. And, truth be told, have in themselves the power to carry us through at least another 50 years of missed penalties, ill-disciplined rucking and what-ifs.
The World Cup this autumn was dreadful and I don’t intend to dwell on it. None of the participants, I suspect, are fully satisfied with their team’s performance. Even the eventual victors, the home side, are aware they were far from perfect. Perhaps even, feel a little fortunate. But, the one thing which I found more painful and more annoying than just losing, was the absence of any sprit or passion for the shirts our boys were wearing. We just didn’t seem to fancy it. Losing is one thing, but not putting every single thing you have into every match is unacceptable. I can’t imagine the rush of adrenaline and the excitement and the sense of duty one must feel pulling on one’s country’s jersey. It is an honour and it is a privilege. Failing to make that absolutely clear every single time one wears one’s colours, is disrespectful and frustrating to watch. We left the world cup with very little honour, very little to be proud of. And, unfortunately, that is true for the team and for each man. I do feel for Martin Johnson and bow to the greatness of what he achieved in his years on the pitch. But he probably just wasn’t the right man for the job. Anyway, I digress, despite the feeling of general underachievement; Great Britain has a very distinguished record in the Olympics – more so than I was aware. Here are three things I found out recently:
1. Team GB is the only team ever to have one at least one gold medal at every summer games!
2. We are one of only five countries to have participated in every summer Olympics since 1896!
3. Hosting the games this summer makes London the only city to have hosted three games! (1908, 1948 and 2012).
All of which are excellent things and things we can be proud of.
I have always enjoyed watching various bits of the games on television and can basically watch any kind of sport or competition. I have lost countless hours engrossed in bowls, darts, curling, snooker. I even watch American Football, if there’s nothing else on (US readers: jk, jk.. Go Giants!) This summer will be a bit different. The games are in London for the first time in my life (we last hosted in 1948) and while I wasn’t successful in the ticket lottery last summer, I will watch the games with extra interest this year. Team GB’s best medal haul ever was in the 1908 games which were hosted in London so hopefully we are in for another great year on home turf in 2012. I hope London becomes a festival of sport, a carnival of competition next summer.
I’ll be watching everything I can, from fencing, to wrestling, to, ahem, beach volleyball, if it happens to be on. I’ll enjoy watching the world’s best push the boundaries and break the records. I’m looking forward to Great Britain playing host to visitors from around the globe. I’m looking forward to our guests reveling in the heritage and history of our great nation. I’m looking forward to watching Team GB bring in a good haul of medals. And, more than all that, I’m looking forward to Team GB putting in some performances both we and they can truly be proud of.